A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: self care

Crafting Shit My Kids Won’t Want

I was unexpectedly out of work shortly before becoming pregnant with Little Man. I don’t think I gave much thought to my offspring inheriting quaint knitted objects prior to that time, but I was assaulted with multiple fronts of anxiety and a steady stream of anger; seemed like the perfect time to spend my woefully empty days with types of projects I enjoy.

At the time it took an extreme amount of effort to consume time, and I’d frequently become hopeless with what was in store for me without a professional occupation. No matter the antidiscrimination clause, employers don’t hire obviously pregnant women. That wasn’t the entire story, but the short of it is that I was in the midst of a tremendous avalanche of unknowns…I’ve never liked unknowns…even with chocolate. Those assortment boxes often end up housing some of those grotesque Harry Potter flavors, and who needs that kind of horrible in their lives?

I’ve been a knitter since childhood, but it didn’t really take until ten years ago. I make all kinds of things, but I especially enjoy color work and fancy stitches…toys are fun to make as well because they don’t require any particular process with the end strings. I can just leave them floating in the toy innards.


(I’m a HUGE fan of the granny square, and also a lover of colorwork and interesting stitches. I, however, do not enjoy seaming in the ends that are buried rather poorly underneath the above pieces. They look pretty nifty though; I vow one day to create a full sized afghan using this motif…when my children won’t impale themselves or destroy my projects. Fun fact: I was working on these beauties after my water broke with Little Man. it was three in the morning. I was told to call at nine…no chance I could have returned to sleep.)

For years I’d wanted to learn crochet. I tried to self-learn through the internet, much as I had expanded my knitting repertoire. No dice. But, unemployment had a benefit in at least one realm. I took a crochet class through a community program of some kind. It’s been a blessing since.

But, here’s the thing with knitting and crochet…at least for me. I often need some person of inspiration to whom I can bequeath a random article of kitsch said person will subsequently misplace or give to their cat…never to be seen again. The alternative is my husband bitching about what I plan to do with whatever project I’ve just completed.

Enter, birthing a child.

I made all kinds of things while I was pregnant with Little Man: a whole slew of various sized socks, a selection of toys, and a sweater attempt that faded into obscurity shortly after it began. I didn’t have any grand ideas about any of these yarned trinkets. I just needed some kind of vague search term for Pinterest.


(These baby socks don’t have pairs. I made uncountable numbers of these bad boys in all shapes and sizes…my children wore exactly zero of them. They simply didn’t fit quite right with no stretch to speak of. I get whatever yarn is cheap, which means the selection is limited in these kinds of sizes. Plus, I like bright, bold colors which apparently is unconscionable in baby yarns.)

After my son was born, some of the articles were a bust, but some of them still surface from obscurity from random time to time, particularly the owl rattle I created as my first non stitch sampler crochet project. At this time the owl is in its vacation home…somewhere with the secrecy of Camp David. But, even at three-and-a-half my son becomes quite protective over it when it decides it will blow in to town. Warrior Queen feels equal passion for “Otto” the Owl, and there have been some scary brawls over it. I wonder if this dynamic is where Oz writers formed their most compelling fight scenes.


(The owl rattle “Otto” was a favorite of both children when they were babies, and was my first real crochet project. The giraffe “Gerard” was my second. When he began understanding that the blanket I had been making would go to his sister, Little Man started taking an interest in the giraffe stating it was because I made it for him. He hardly touches it, sitting pristine on his shelf, but he would definitely know if it were missing. The mice were trinkets of my unemployment. All of these toys are variations of the original patterns…I usually tweak them in some respect just for the hell of it.)

But, here’s the thing that is not so novel for those of us crafters for our cherubs. After the first, it becomes a substantial ordeal finding the time and motivation to make these same efforts. Like in all things through my parenting journey, I had to be flexible and alter my expectations and plans to ensure that my daughter would also be a beneficiary for the thought behind what these tasks represent.

The first barrier is that my kids are almost exactly two years apart. Knitting, in general, is a bad scene with a toddler who is into everything, especially if it could maim or kill him, milling around. First there are the needles…I use double pointed ones for my favorite projects…EXTRA bad news, and don’t get me started on the cable needles. Baby things often use small needles, so not only would I have multiple sharps biding time to inflict death and destruction, but this shit has a tendency to disappear…until only the toddler discovers it. Finding these things tend to be the Excalibur for small, barely walking children. Then there are the directions that would be ripped and otherwise desecrated on the regular. Lastly, it would be inevitable that something would happen, and I’d drop stitches, make a mistake, or have a needles pulled through by a demon spawn committed to fucking with me. And, who really has three years of time trying to return a knitting project to the correct working order?

By default Warrior Queen would benefit from my latest knowledge fund in the crochet world. But, some of the rubs are the same. While having a single less scary hook, and one stitch with which to contend, I can’t have directions laying about. I’d never considered making an afghan before…mostly because I’ve never had the attention span to stick to such a large, time consuming project; but the decision was a stroke of brilliance.

From the beginning the plan was a full-sized blanket. I didn’t trust myself to diligently work on this thing, and how annoying would it be to finish a baby blanket for my daughter in time for her to attend high school?

In the end it was a dream project I never expected. I finished it a month or two after Warrior Queen was born…I could have completed it sooner, but became unmotivated in the last month of my pregnancy despite only having a row or two left. I have to say, though, it’s a beautiful blanket. I used my yarn stash that my husband spent years urging me to toss. The afghan is so large that its striped glory ate one entire bin of languishing yarn. I chose an easy stitch too, and I faithfully carried the growing blanket to whatever activity that allowed me to sit for a swath of time while he played independently.


(This is the bulk of the finished product…not too shabby, right?)

As the blanket grew, it attracted a child following. Certainly my son was passionate about it…he still is when it’s out. The colors are bright and the textures interesting. Until I seamed in the loose strands with a thin border, Mr. Man enjoyed pulling on them. I have such fond memories of my son burrowing into the stitching as I worked quietly. When it was long enough, he’d wrap himself in its stripes; looking up at me and giggling or uttering something I didn’t understand. Warrior Queen’s afghan attracted the attention of scores of other random kids…it’s just that kind of blanket. One day I’ll give it to my daughter…one day soon. I’m making a second at the moment with the remaining bin of yarn, and if her reaction to the work in progress is any indication, she will love my stitched gift to her.

Little Man has always known the blanket was for his sister, and since she’s been born, the giraffe I made him has been revered. He doesn’t do anything with it…no snuggles or playdates. But, he once told me that he loves it because I made it for him, and it’s his. So, maybe these kinds of gifts are really just crap reserved for hoarders, but maybe even when they are smallest the thought counts.


Life as Pictures…more miscellaneous and good tidings

Life is good…it’s been a long time since I could say that without pause. It feels carefree almost…well, as carefree as herding preschooler and toddler cats anyway. Per my usual state, things are BUSY…good busy.

What began as a general email of interest to a director I recently helped, turned into something unexpected. Assuming he achieves the last minute required enrollment, I’ll be paid to teach my writing class for the spring semester. I finished my first ever college syllabus a week ago; I pray I didn’t embarrass myself with it. Much of the class will be the same incarcerated clientele I taught over the summer in our maximum, but I’ll also have a few college “teaching assistants” along for the ride. It’s a new experience for me…like so many other new experiences I’ve had over the past couple years. My general policy these days is to open myself up to whatever floats my way because I can’t know where things will lead. When I originally emailed this director, I assumed I wouldn’t hear back until long after I forgot I sent the message…one never knows.

From a personal fulfillment perspective the class was gravy. I’d already committed to writing a couple more programs on behalf of the Department of Corrections. I’d completed my sizable piece of the reentry program that will be implemented system wide…pretty jazzed about that. The new programs will be interesting as well, each in a unique way. Like everything else, I’ve listened for possibilities, and take the plunge even if I’m uncomfortable. It’s all been a pretty groovy result for the most part…more than I would have expected. It’s an odd balance though. I’ll be paid to teach, but the rest I commit to as a volunteer. Without a check my time is squirreled within minute spasms throughout my day. But, all my seemingly infinitesimal exertions yield a good amount of task completions. It usually takes my forming of periodic accomplishment lists to realize the magnitude of the mountains I’ve moved in relatively short amounts of time.

And, of course there are my full-time responsibilities hefted upon countless overtime. But, these days the kids are funny. All sorts of things that are hilarious to me and possibly people who know them. Likely a snore to strangers, but I’ll give it a whirl. Little Man is all about his nether regions and various excrement or fluids these days. We’ve been talking about how urine and poop come to be…the process of energy for the body. My son likes to remind me at random times, “Pee pee comes from my peanuts. There’s a hole.” The other day he told a friend of mine, “Stinkers come from a tushie. You tell her Mommy,” as he sweeps his hand in a gesture for me to carry on the conversation.

Little Man finds new and innovative ways to assert himself almost daily. My husband telling him to hang-up the phone, “I can’t. I have to make a call.” All kinds of funny things.

Warrior Queen is her enduring feisty self. I took the kids to a cafe within one of our grocery stores. It’s a brand spankin’ new building. We hadn’t been yet, and I was delighted at the care that came to the eating space. Not only were there toys, but good ones to boot! The area was clean, and the sustenance surprisingly tasty as well, even if it isn’t quite worth the cost. My fierce girl enjoyed her cookie, roaming around to stand and stare at other patrons. She wouldn’t smile or say anything, just look at random fellow diners for an uncomfortable amount of time. She’s cute and small, so all of them smiled at her as she continued to unblinkingly perpetuate her stare-down. Periodically, she would determine someone was worth a wave of greeting.

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I feel like this is the modern day Sisyphus…my futile attempt to maintain a consistent store of bananas. I’ll buy a mass of them, and within a day they are gone. I don’t even know how something like that happens, and part of me wonders if this is part of the inspiration for the republic thrown around these days. One would think the running state of my household is supporting the big pharma of laxatives, but that is SO not the case. If my kids can claim no other skill in this life, they can take pride in their prolific propensity for pooping. Eventually I’ll rue the day that I didn’t act on some kind of partnership with a local farm.

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This image represents the most twitchingly horrific part of shopping, and I betcha anyone reading this who is a parent will immediately understand why before they lapse into a fit worthy among some of the more damaging epileptic seizures. It’s on purpose, and I will forever hold a grudge for this industry. Maybe the jerky gets the preschooler or toddler side-eye, but mark my words they are well versed in whatever garbage toy or latest brand of candy housed within easy reach. And, the lighter’s a nice touch…one of these days my son will burn this shit to the ground while I’m trying to locate my wallet within the black hole that is my purse containing a smaller version of a Walmart.

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I took this picture a day or two after we confirmed the suspicion that bats set-up residence in our attic…along with a family of mice and flying squirrel as it turns out. I remember happening upon this display and wondering what were the odds of us housing this specific brand of winged critter.


So, as I write these absurd odds-and-ends with no real sequence or purpose, it occurs to me that a post such as this captures the essence of my life more than any other: randomly without purpose most of the time, yet I find myself laughing throughout.


Life as Pictures…miscellaneous edition



I’m a haphazard tower builder. Mr. Man has his ideals for structures, and fortunately they are relatively compatible with my general building capability. My husband has these complicated, remarkable pursuits. I just stack shit on top of the other, and hope it stands…at least for a few moments before they crumble into child oblivion. Little Man’s latest designs are building the above “garages with houses” while Warrior Queen contributes by randomly piling whatever bricks are in front of her. Big brother watches his little sister’s efforts to add to his pride without batting an eye; I kinda love that about him. And, how can I forget him carefully placing the remaining bricks filed tightly together on the end to “keep the chickens from entering the garden?” I can’t really blame him. Chickens are horribly scary creatures. In the event of an apocalypse, those sketchy bastards will be leading the charge with the cockroaches and politicians.


I enjoy cooking, but I reserve special treats for when my husband is out of town. It isn’t all that dramatic when he is gone, but I miss him. If I have the wherewithal to plan, I try to find certain things that I can look forward to…something special…usually food related, but not always. These mini quiche muffins are on my fairly lengthy list of favorites, but I hardly am able to indulge because the children pilfer them whenever there is a whiff of the container in the open.


Easiest pumpkin muffin recipe ever. I’m not a baker, so adding a can of pumpkin to a box of spice or carrot cake mix is about all I can handle…


The carnage of a mandatory home day…the poor bastards didn’t stand a chance. The children were merciless, and I’m still a little traumatized.


Happy place…happy place…My children swinging from the chandeliers shrieking their battle cries as they hurl their wincingly pliable bodies onto the sofa cushions that littered the entirety of any exposed flooring. BUT, I have my stash, so bedlam be damned, and you can bet your ass I’m not sharing! I’ll laugh maniacally in their faces as I enjoy every morsel…Okay, maybe not in their faces…I’ll cower in the bathroom like all normal and rational people to avoid the conflict.


It isn’t always about the chocolate stash when I’m teetering on the edge of losing whatever minuscule cool I’ve managed to retain since having children. I’m also growing my second afghan in painful contributions using the yarn stash my husband spent years nagging me to toss. The first afghan will soon go to Warrior Queen, and it is quite lovely. I’m not sure where this one is headed.


We aren’t remotely religious, but the menorah candle lighting was the most successful aspect of our Hanukkah festivities this year. I want to always remember Mr. Man launching himself out of his nap to tend to the candles.


If I’m honest, these latka beauties are my favorite part of the holiday which are a healthier version of the original…because potatoes…


This sweater doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than it simply exists. Nothing pleases me more than to live in a time and place where seven-year-olds in a country across the planet work to create this number that I would never think of wearing, but I’m sure someone could pull it off who is significantly more fun than I. In the meantime, I’ll be in the bathroom progressively nibbling the chocolate stash I’ve cultivated over the past couple of weeks.


Hopes and Plans

I had designs to write a type of New Year post…something short…trite…everything this time of year might expect in a blog. But, Warrior Queen became sick, and it’s a pretty nasty one too. It’s only a matter of time before that shit spreads, and I can’t wait! Little Man returned to school this week…finally. It was only a week-and-a-half, but it felt like a month. I’d been itching to return to normalcy, but I had an additional week to go before that happened. I’m in the home stretch, and I can’t wait!

I don’t create resolutions; I never felt compelled. That said, there are things I want to remember specifically with this transition.

Warrior Queen has a bedtime routine with me these days. I push her to the precipice of a sleep hunker down before she issues her edict that only she can manage, “Rock!” She sits on my lap facing outward as I rock on the chair I’ve owned since college. She garbles her displeasure, “I falling!” and pushes my face away with her small hands when I cuddle the incorrect way. But I hold her, listening to her light breathing. I can’t see her face, so I periodically ask her how she is. In incremental quiet utterances, “Good.” It’s a funny declaration; a heavy, strong guttural assertion. I ask her how she is all the time, so that I can giggle on the regular before her speech is more developed, and significantly less endearing in this respect. The now twenty-month-old Warrior Queen doesn’t like me to count down at the end of a routine as her brother requires. It strikes me as funny because some of her favorite books involve numbers. And, whenever in doubt what a new favorite story will be, my money is always on anything with some kind of counting. But, just before her sleep we rock together for a stretching time because I have a deep need to snuggle her in the uninterrupted quiet. The other night I hummed some concoction I created on the spot. I repeat rhythms when I express these musical inclinations. Warrior Queen recognized the patterns quickly, and attempted to hum along with me with surprising accuracy, but maybe she’s just growing older. She almost fell asleep on me that night. Her hands jutting up to cradle her head the way they used to when she was a baby…I miss that.

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(It’s even more adorbs when it’s an infant.)

Gradually her head became heavier on my arms, but she continued to answer my inquires with a whisper. That wasn’t how I spent my New Year’s Eve, but I think I’ll celebrate that moment as the conclusion to a trying year I hope will improve as I roll through another calendar designation.

And, how can I forget Little Man? I wish every comment he’s made over the last several months could be preserved. We managed a hair-cut for him, and he’s always so very chatty…about really random wonderful things. The stylist asked how his Christmas was, “We don’t celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah, and it’s over now.” As I had my own locks experience an overdue trim, I found myself shaking in buried laughs with his narration.

I took him to the grocery by himself on New Year’s day. Most of it was a rare truly annoying away from home experience, but I’ll focus on the highlight of the trip. I drink a good amount of water…and tea throughout the day. Restroom trips are a running gag between me and my husband, and the chuckles increase exponentially when I’m pregnant. The perfect segue with Little Man left me devastated to find they were cleaning the bathroom. Like most parents understand, having children is to hold oneself in a constant state of needing to use the facilities, but I still don’t like it. My son is witness to the degree to which my back teeth will float more than I should probably admit. Eventually, I manged relief and we resumed my hurried and imperfect efforts to check items off my list amidst a three-and-a-half-year-old losing his luster.

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(Familiar, right?)

Searching a shelf I caught my dearest first born describing to the two teens stocking shelves the degree to which Mommy needed to pee, and how I went about to remedy the situation. I found the items I needed, commented that they must feel pleased that their lives can resume with such pertinent information for their existence, and jetted off before Little Man destroyed the store. In that moment he was keeping it together, but part of parenting is developing a sixth sense of when shit is about to go down…My accuracy is unparalleled and this outing reinforced my impressive average. But, those other stories are not how I wish to remember the turning of another guard.

Maybe that’s what I’ll carry with me into this new span, pointedly remembering the pieces I want to cherish, and extinguishing the pieces that shouldn’t take up any more real estate in my gray matter than absolutely necessary. After all, there are already some pretty fantastic things to look forward to. And, if I’m exceptionally lucky, the fruition of some of my greatest hopes will come to pass, and I can’t wait!

What To Do with a Day?

Little Man’s behavior…around me, at least…has become phenomenally better over the past several weeks. He’s three-and-a-half now. Maybe that can account for it? I can’t say for sure, but it’s lovely…at least until Daddy arrives. At that point, he’s excited and all bets are off. Some Wednesdays ago I wasn’t able to think of a decent activity plan. I was simply drained. I decided we would stay home for the day, which I never do. I went into it thinking it would be such madness because my son is so much more difficult to manage when I keep him in. I fought through copious guilt, and determined Mr. Man would be vegging out in front of the television all day, so I could be left alone…to grieve…exercise…for some quiet…whatever.

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(Obviously, Interesly also enjoys vegging out in front of a television all day.)

Eighteen-month-old Warrior Queen still takes two substantially long naps, so my planning consisted of calculating my time to be left alone.

I’d prepared in the most absurd way. I asked several friends for permission to even consider this agenda.

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(Without a doubt Colourbox understands a day of television requires copious amounts of planning and color-coded, alphabetized spreadsheets…)

I begrudgedly accept that my son watches about two hours of brain rotting television nightly. It’s a compromise that I don’t want to get into, but it bothers me. It’s the only media he encounters. My phone is not for his use, nor is the computer. He doesn’t play games or tinker with fancy apps.

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(Are Big Bad Baseball and I the only ones worrying about the effects of too much Puppy Dog Pals, PJ Masks…or whatever other stupid ass shows that are peddled to my son when I’d rather watch the news?)

I’m extraordinarily cautious about media exposure. People come up with all sorts of rationalizations and excuses, but the fact of the matter is that technology and devices impact brain functioning at all ages, particularly in the arena of social skills and empathy. It’s strange because there isn’t a lot of direct acknowledgment of these two key social issues. Almost all of the documentation focuses on every other conceivable skill, yet ignores the way in which we exist as social creatures. At best there are rumblings about social media exposure and texting for adolescents, but so much of our learned behavior in the world begins at the sponge stage.

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(I guess Care.com also heard that referring to small children as sponges is associated to their perseveration on toilets.)

This is not to say that I am emphatically anti-technology. It’s a tool, and a marvelous one. But, it’s just that, a tool. It is not a replacement for engaging with others or forgoing the commitment of the often irritating and tiresome process of teaching offspring to be reasonable people in public. Admittedly, my kids are very young. Who’s to say? Maybe they will grow to be total twatwaddles under my parentage, but I can’t imagine cultivating my style exclusively around the functions and interventions of media will swoop in and save the day in the event my kids are a consistent embarrassment when they are definitely old enough to know better.

I probably think too much about this singular issue. It isn’t out of nowhere. I’ve spoken of my concern that my children will inherit my brain. Consequently, it is a concentrated focus of mine to ensure they have a background knowledge and general reserve of strategies for social navigation and situation comprehension. As is, if they have my brain both will be in an unavoidable quagmire of struggle. It’s gut wrenching to consider, so I try not to think of its impact. But, it’s important to me…as their primary caregiver…that I teach them whatever strategies I can to counteract as much as possible. I don’t believe in the fool’s errand of striving to ensure my children are happy. I have no control over such a thing, and part of life is about learning how to navigate the unhappy times; that also begins in early childhood. My role as parent isn’t the happy-maker; it’s teacher and home…and ass-wiping aficionado.

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(Sketch Club captured how ripped my arms have become wrestling Warrior Queen into the car seat she suddenly started abhorring a month ago.)

Circling back to planning for what should be a typical Wednesday…untypically at home. I managed to give myself the permission I needed as personal self-preservation…It’s been a colossally shitty six-months with devastatingly insignificant amount of time to myself. I was all prepared…talked myself through the day…what would happen and when. The three of us played together in the morning; the two surprisingly entertaining themselves to an unexpected degree. A smooth transition to Warrior Queen’s morning nap; Little Man was looking through some books, and continued without distraction when I returned downstairs. I decided to leave him undisturbed, and take care of some emails for my volunteering gig. I managed the entire list of correspondence; no concerning noises from the other room. Mr. Man was playing, not asking about the television. I carried on with my stuff, even managing to do a bit more exercise. I actually couldn’t believe he left me alone to do it. He usually insists on annoying me throughout my entire routine until I give-up and tend to whatever issue he forgets as soon as I’m available.

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(XDA Developers get that EVERYTHING is imperative to Little Man provided I’m busy doing something else.)

I kept waiting for Little Man to ask to watch the favorite boob tube, but he didn’t. He entertained himself all day, even when Warrior Queen rejoined the festivities. I couldn’t believe what an easy day it was…without cartoons or inquiry of any kind. As the day wrapped I was feeling pretty good as a parent. I’ve learned to take these wins as they come without questioning or second guessing.

A couple weeks later a similar predicament. I assumed I wouldn’t be as lucky, but figured I had television time bank. Warrior Queen went for her snooze, but my son didn’t immediately inquire about the television. He wanted stories, so I read to him snuggled on the sofa for about 45 minutes before I needed a break. He tinkered for a few then asked for cartoons. I don’t know if I fully thought out how much he would watch that day; I guess it was a play by ear kind of thing, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Such an approach wreaks havoc on my anxiety and general rigidity with routines, but I’ve simply been shit at organizing these kinds of things lately.

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(Sure, no probs…I can totally go with the flow…easy peasy lemon squeezy…)

Mr. Man ended up viewing an hour longer than I’d hoped. I’d watched the minutes tick away as I was discussing the creative writing program I designed with a colleague of sorts. It was an important conversation for me to have, and it wouldn’t have been possible that day without my son distracted. Fifteen or so minutes, sure. But, and hour-and-a-half conversation was an impossibility. As it went Warrior Queen was becoming challenging to manage for the last thirty minutes of the discussion.

For the longest time I spent my parenting time finding patterns and consistent interventions. Now that my daughter is more of a little person every day, consistent pattern pursuits is just one more fool’s errand to forgo. Some semblance of routines and procedures are definitely important, but at this point I have a whole range of interventions in my mind’s catalogue for just about every growing moment of my children’s lives. I can feel my brain’s plasticity as I do whatever works in any given moment before moving onto the next moment.

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(Pinterest concurs; I’m a BOSS!)

Part of what works in my life’s bigger picture is seizing moments that give me feelings of some kind of positive boost…usually unrelated to parenting. I consider it a momentum thing where the result encompasses everything else in my world, particularly how I interface with my children. That was this phone call.

I’ve come to understand that our Department of Corrections doesn’t value creative writing programs…not as a platform of self expression with no direct career implications anyway. There might be some literature attesting to the value of writing, but doubtful there is anything conclusively praising its prevention of recidivism. And, when resources are tight, results matter. I get it. I don’t like implementing squishy things, but anecdotally I know writing to be a tremendous benefit and outlet, even if I don’t have the concrete data of a study to support it. I was told that various individuals have been trying for twenty years to reinstate a creative writing program to no avail…until mine was approved…the one I ran at our maximum facility this summer. So, a local and prestigious university is running my program this term. I’m still not entirely clear how such a thing came to fruition, but it’s pretty groovy…humbling…unexpected. I’m a stay-at-home mom who toils in stolen minutes with things important to me. I rarely talk with peers, even more rarely do I meet with anyone pertaining to something within a professional realm. I have my passions, and I strive to make a difference; but in this field I’m often blind to my impact. I just do my thing, but surprisingly often over the past year I’m dumbstruck by feedback of some marvel of a task I accomplished.

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(Desktop Nexus Nature never envisioned its role in my time occupations when I’ve had a good day.)

The conversation I had this day was with the individual teaching my creative writing program through the university, updating me and strategizing…comparing notes from my class over the summer at the same facility. We are in the beginning stages of developing a systemic writing program that will eventually join with a larger national writing group with ambitions to extend their reach in our corrections system.

I’m grand at dismissing and minimizing my accomplishments. This program is no different. I always assume that anyone can do what I do…anyone can create what I can…anyone can achieve the results I do. Often I question the results themselves. It’s rare I get a clear window into the quality of my skill in any given capacity. Even these months later I’d been feeling insecure about how my class ran over the summer. I’ve received feedback that the class was a great success, but I’ve had a significant amount of difficulty believing…or accepting such notions. Intellectually I kinda get the way things went down; the issues out of my control and the barriers to teaching…intervening with incarcerated populations. But, I perpetually strive to do better. Unfortunately, my time is not my own so I likely will not have an opportunity to be better until the spring or summer of next year. It’s painfully long to try out the interventions I’m considering. But, this small moment that I needed in the midst of a horrible six-month period when my threenager watched too much television…my toddler toddled around while I mostly ignored her…I could tend to myself. I seized an opportunity to give myself a needed boost that I certainly deserve if for no other reason than I am a human in this world tramping along like anyone else.

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(Toddler was left to her own devices, but totally worth it, right Encounters with Cinema?)

I can’t say that things are consistently easier at the moment, but I have something important to smile about and focus on when another wave of sadness hits or I feel my control slipping. In the days following the phone call, I had a little more patience with my son…much of the time. I was little more interested in the snuggles Warrior Queen provides. I’m a believer in moderation in just about everything. I’m a believer in experiencing moments. I’m a believer in connecting to people in real time. I’m a believer in most of our learning is not through images on a screen. But, these days I’m focusing on the belief that at some point something has to give, and a rare day of wasted time can yield future moments that aren’t.

Love Above All…another year of gratitude

It’s been a heavy…long time. I’ve started a bit of a tradition with this blog. Around this time I create a post of gratitude. I have to say I kinda enjoy it, and look forward to this post as it approaches. I’ve read stuff periodically about the benefits of having gratitude during the more grueling times in life. It’s a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand it can be helpful to focus on the very good things in my life. On the other I use it as a justification for why I shouldn’t or have no right to feel miserable at the time. But, now is not the moment to focus on one more part of my lengthy list of shtick.

I’m grateful to know love…to experience it in its many forms…the love of and for my friends…the love of and for my husband, but mostly the love surrounding my children. I don’t love easily. It’s something I’d never wanted to risk confronting, but I’ve had key people in my life, especially relatively recently, who have allowed me to slowly release the excruciatingly tight fist of this sentiment. And, then there are my children.

When Little Man was born I was struck fairly early on with the profound realization that he was nothing but a being of love. It was pretty much all he knew, and I’d never experienced anything like that…to have someone look at me the way he did. So many things are learned, but our capacity to love…for love…is innate. I’d lost that somewhere; who knows where. But, in those early, immediate moments I was determined to preserve this capacity in him as long as I could…Warrior Queen too, as the equivalent level of love stretched blatantly across her delicate features within a similar initial timeframe as her brother. Ultimately these types of things mean that I must model how I want my children to interact with and receive the world. It’s been a beautiful lesson.

Some of my most wonderful…unexpected moments for me in this process of raising children are the unabashed snuggles I can give them. Part of my commitment to Little Man and Warrior Queen was to always demonstrate the depth of my love and appreciation for them. Something like that isn’t such a leap. I’ve lost important people in my life through some means or another. The first never knew how I felt about him, and it’s probably my life’s greatest regret. I can attempt to repair…or at least resolve a burned bridge. Death is finite, so I have to carry everything I’ve never said for the duration of my flitting over life’s terrain. My husband never escapes a day when I haven’t told him how much I love him…how much I appreciate who he is and his role in my life. These things have become a compulsion of sorts. I tell my kids I love them regularly, especially when there have been a plethora of redirections and yelling in a designated time span. But, mostly I opt for a constant stream of squeezes and smooches. I can’t hold them close enough…hug them long enough, and I’m so grateful for that feeling.

But, the other night while I cuddled with my son for the three minutes before tucking him in…hopefully…for the night; I lamented that I will miss the soon approaching days when he will no longer climb all over me with every effort to crawl back into my uterus. Both my children are so affectionate and snuggly almost every waking minute of their lives. They will play independently for a span, but then gravitate toward my person in some wonderful fashion, and I can only want each minute to extend for an eternity…even if I have to pee or my lunch is solidifying into a chilled mass on the counter. It’s all worth it because these days will soon fall from their grace. I’d never thought I’d be that person. Most of the time I don’t like people touching me…like to comedic proportions.

I’m grateful for so many things…or at least I try to be. I’m grateful for these simple black dresses I’ve found that allow me to feel as though there was some effort placed into my appearance. In that same vein, I’m thankful for hair pins because I can’t be bothered to figure out how to pull my hair into a ponytail that doesn’t look like a disaster. Maybe it’s because my hair is really too short…maybe I’m just a hot mess with this task to the point that experiencing a seizure in the process of hair fixing would help the situation. Hair pins are quite forgiving and give the illusion of a stylish updo, especially for a curly mop such as mine. I should add flannel shirts to this particular list. If I didn’t have those colors and patterns, then I’d look as though I was in a constant state of attending funerals.

Stupidly immature patterned socks are also a marvel of child sweat shops the world over. Hard to be in a bad mood when one’s feet are adorned with hotdogs or dinosaurs. I recently purchased socks with alternating chicks and fried eggs, which is actually pretty morbid; but part of me can’t wait until those make an appearance. I’ve decided to save those for a drastically shitty kind of day. I’m grateful that day has not dawned.

Tea and dark chocolate earn their permanent nod as up at the tippy top of any list consisting of wonders that make the universe right, but maybe cookies deserve the very same placement? It’s hard to say because I’ve never really met truly bad chocolate. Sure, some I like better than others, but I can’t say I’ve met a bar or truffle I’d kick out of bed. Cookies, however, are a different matter. Some of them taste like absolute garbage. Have I ever not finished a cookie? Of course not, I’m not an animal. But, lousy cookies leave an air of disappointment long after its remains shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m not grateful for that. Good cookies? I think we can all agree there is a special place in the heavens for their creators. I’m not a believer…but an exquisite cookie can almost make me trust in a higher power.

I’m grateful for the uptick in civil action…activism…investment in preserving the best in society…the best in us…community that exists even behind anonymous screens. So much of the time I’m alone during the day…maybe lonely in need of the bare minimum of human connection when the days and weeks blur together in a swirl of, “what just happened?”…staying home with wee ones can do that. Social media is a wonder of like-minded people who are also new to political involvement. I’m too old for the inspiration of far distant figures to motivate me in any particular way, but the flood of the everywoman is something so awesome in its magnitude. We aren’t happy with…things, so we strangers who will never meet band together to do our small things, and accomplish the impossible amidst a sturdy collection of naysayers. I’m grateful to feel so powerful even on those days when nothing else is done beyond a call to Congress or a typed notion of support to an unknown, discouraged peer. In those moments I matter outside myself, and I’m thankful to feel that…to force myself at all times to matter in the smallest of ways outside myself. I’m grateful for sprawling spaces in comment sections of like-minded people. I’m inspired by the number of ordinary women leading ordinary lives, and changing things in not so ordinary ways.

I’m grateful for so many of the opportunities I’m afforded…that I worked damn hard for, and finally materializing into fruition. I’m thankful for my voice; I’m thankful others find it valuable enough to dedicate sparse moments in a flustering life. I’m grateful for progress…always progress, but at its very core; love…in its many forms and expressions.

Needs Met

I received an unexpected call from a good friend. We haven’t caught up in ages. I think it’s the mark of middle-aged friendships that there is a basic understanding you will not speak for excessive amounts of time, but the conversations begin as though no time elapsed. It was a brief call; in transit. I gave her the thumbnails of events in the last six months, and found myself apologizing for their depressing, edged nature. I like telling jokes; I don’t like complaining…I suppose with humor it can be one of the same.

But, the morning was a reprieve from the draining monotony of my dreary, racing thoughts at times. Overall my life is a good one, but I’m definitively nursing some internal wounds at the moment. The week like the last one push me to concur the healthful benefits of community. I have a collection of wonderful people in my life; I’d certainly be lost without them. This morning, however, was a different sort of reprieve that gave me respite from the diverse waves of bombarding negative thoughts.

It was a beautiful morning, simultaneously cool and warm. My husband and I took the children to a local park. Mr. Man used a regular swing for the first time. It took some prodding, but he was giddy with excitement as I pushed him as high as I could muster. Warrior Queen has a death wish rooted in daring oblivion; Little Man almost punted his sister across the wood chipped enclosure as he swooped forward. I snatched the chain, jerking my son off the seat. He clung onto the swing drifting back toward me.

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(That’s actually the expression he gave me, and it was probably wrong for me to laugh.)

Warrior Queen wandered off in her typical drunken gorilla posture to interfere in the amusing activities of another unsuspecting child.

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(How did Daily Mail get a picture of Warrior Queen noticing that I opened the pantry door?!?)

Little Man is of the age where a parent realizes he can climb up…things…tall things, yet fears the windy swoop down. Eventually he determines he will not be owned by a staticy expanse of smooth green plastic, and takes the risk. I admire his bravery in all things. For Warrior Queen’s part, she enjoyed the softer slope of her own slide, even as fatigue began to take over. On her belly and smiling, she would lay her head upstream momentarily before requesting that I boost her up once again.

My husband and I had the rare moment to sit on a bench in the enclosure; both children momentarily independent. There were no great disclosures or profound remarks, it was just peaceful and comfortably warm for my soul to sit with him and laugh about absolutely nothing worth remembering. I suppose those are the most nurturing moments after almost a decade-and-a-half commitment.

I’d like to say this simple trip to a playground on a perfect autumn day is enough to compensate for the entirety of my struggles, but fortunately I encounter enough quantity to make a dent.

Less Than Perfect, but Close Enough

It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was a good one. The little lady woke earlier than she had been, so while I was unhappy to slog my unrested body out of bed, I was able to enjoy guaranteed Warrior Queen giggles as I speckled her neck with a light dusting of kisses. Even waking grumpily, she will laugh. She simply cannot help herself, and I absolutely love it. She does a couple of new things these days, like climbing…on EVERYTHING, particularly the kitchen table. She finally figured out how to move chairs to her liking to complete her table top cabaret. Her screams when I prevent her from pulling out a pushed in chair confirms that Mommy is the soul crushing dream killer I’d been hoping to become for years.

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(“I told Pinterest I didn’t need this gig to get through college, but I’m just SO good at it!”)

But, Warrior Queen also cuddles on my lap, leaning against me, arching her back periodically to look me in the eye smiling. She carries me books telling me, “READ!” My fierce girl also plays. Over her quiet breakfast she scowled at me, furrowed brow and all. I imitated the expression; we held it in mutual determination for a few seconds before Warrior Queen broke into her tell tale toothy smile that consumes her entire face. I absolutely loved it, and I loved her lifting her delicate toddler feet so I could rub her soles.

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(You’d ache to rub the feet belonging to this face too, right Homebrew Talk?)

I’m just on the other end of a rare minor cold that still prevented any iota of exercise completion for a little over a week. Consequently, I’m not able to particularly perk up in the morning. Even pursuing a steady dose of a caffeine elixir, I’ve been ready to sleep standing for a couple days now. Today was especially grueling despite eight hours of mediocre sleep. I’ve been opting for hot tea for the past week or so. I’m thankful I thought to buy a few cans of evaporated milk during our weekend’s grocery jaunt. A creamy tea makes things just a little more special, which is ideal when my body does not.

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(It isn’t a unicorn, but I bet you feel more special now too, thanks, Scary Mommy!)

Mr. Man slept until a bit after eight, and he wasn’t even sick…anymore. That was lovely. I decided to try for our frequented library music program. My parents joined, which allowed me to peruse their used books on sale for a steal. There’s no rhyme or reason to the pricing…I bought eight books for three dollars; sometimes it’s five dollars for a few stories less. But, whatever, I’m able to pick-up some tales I wouldn’t think of otherwise. Today there were two with amazing illustrations, and the stories weren’t horrible. I’m a sucker for beautiful artwork, especially in children’s books. I managed one or two with somewhat of a diversity component. Such things are horribly difficult to find. Little Man enjoyed the parachute, shaking the material at the border with the adults. He usually begs to leave early when my parents join, but not today. He asked, but was easily convinced to remain; he seemed glad he did.

Little Man mostly played well in the kid area after the program. He’s moderately obsessed with trains these days. For a beat or two explained to a younger boy how one might go about playing with a train set…the young toddler a fraction of my son’s tall expanse was rapt. Other children flocked to the table as his play progressed. Suddenly my son swishes the large procession of mismatched train cars into a bin. Other children were waiting to have their turn with them, but he was finished and cleaned after himself…I should note he doesn’t do such crazy things as picking up after himself at home.

Warrior Queen took a three hour nap…Mr. Man did not nap at all. Apparently, he can open the gate upstairs, preventing him from descending down to the lower level of our home. He kept leaving his room throughout the two hour span of “quiet time,” but never unlatched the gate to journey downstairs until it had been almost exactly two hours. I’m grateful quiet time was:

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(It still stinks, but there was no one around to pilfer my chocolate!)

rather than:

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 (Pinterest knows all about unobstructed children not napping.)

In between threats, I managed to accomplish some of what I hoped. I called my Senators and Representative about one obnoxiously almost infinitesimal fraction of the latest bit of horrible from our country’s “leadership.” I’ve also managed to find a couple of organizations that allow me to take part in this multi-pronged voter suppression issue from home. There is so, so, SO much stuff to focus on that I worry no attention is shining on hordes of people denied information and access about the election process at every level and their constitutional right to vote. Most of what I do isn’t particularly glamorous, but it’s important. Also important that I want my children to be socially and politically conscious, meaning I needed to step up my game…big time. Interestingly, it’s kinda addicting. Feeling like I’m part of my government…my country; taking action to make things better for those who’ve struggled for too long, in part, because of my complacency. But, my surge of participation and engagement gives me control…allows me feel another layer of purpose. I highly recommend it to others. Start small, call your state and federal congressional officials. You won’t regret it!

As I concluded the most recent of my frequent calls to my Representative, Mr. Man managed to appear downstairs without waking his sister, so we were able to spend some sweet time together. His latest thing is giving me kisses, and I love it. We shared my special popcorn, which consists of an olive oil spray coating with parmesan cheese sprinkled throughout. My son was doting on me, insisting that he periodically feed me pieces WITHOUT placing them on his tongue first. We read some of the new stories I purchased, built some towers. Little Man laughed and smiled in his glorious way. He snuggled the way he does best. I absolutely loved it. My growing boy helped me tidy, beaming as he uttered his desire to help me. He enjoys feeling helpful, and I adore watching the pride in his stature when I remember to assign him tasks. These days he itches to help me cook. I’ve started creating benign steps, so he can assist. A side note, I fantasize about the day when I can cook with my children.

Warrior Queen woke an hour after her brother. Retrieving her from upstairs, speckling her neck in whispered kisses…naturally she giggled. The remaining pieces of the afternoon and evening deteriorating slightly as the children grew tired, but I certainly won’t complain. After all, nothing is always perfect, but the good moments certainly are.

Quenching a Dynamic Burn

This is an older post put–off for more pleasant topics. Consequently, the tenses and timing are off, and perhaps a disjointed read in parts; but the message is important:

In social work there is specific discussion of work exhaustion. It’s essentially occupation burn-out, and rampant in human service fields like education. It’s different from simply having too many things to do for too long. In social work it is the extra emotional burden of heaviness…carrying another’s struggles on or as your own struggles. I’ve never been interested in clinical work, my work tangent to the field is more macro and policy oriented. Generally, I tend to shut-down the emotional toil reciprocity. I’m not quite sure how I do it, but it’s a specific advantage, especially in the professional area I gravitate toward.

I didn’t read the story, but recently there was some article in one of my social media feeds that mentioned parenting burn-out. Maybe it was specific to mothers…or stay-at-home mothers like me. I can’t really remember, but I recall accepting the plausibility. At the time I felt fortunate not really experiencing such a thing in my own parenting ramblings.

Periodically I feel overwhelmed, but usually it’s something separate from the continuous act of parenting itself. Recently, however, I felt the exhaustion that leaves a distinct impression beyond a tiring day. There has been so much on my mind for the last month, really. Several things not appropriate for mass consumption of this blog…it’s why I have friends. I weathered my mind’s chaos of that time, but this was different. I wasn’t inclined to create a post, but I wonder if having such sentiments public when the details are within the realm of my public persona comfort level is helpful…to someone.

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(Saatchi Art understands how to find the beauty amidst unforgiving turmoil.)

Perhaps surprising because of the nature of blogging, but I’m quite private with many aspects of my life. I’m selective with what I share and to whom. But, there are elements of unnecessary taboo within every stage of parenting…or trying to become a parent. It’s a shame because so much is so common, but often undiscussed unless a brave soul breaches the needless silence. I came to such a realization when I was told during my first Ob-Gyn appointment with Little Man that I would certainly lose his pregnancy. It’s impossible to effectively communicate the pain such news inflicts. I’ve felt it with every loss I’ve succumbed, regardless of how early in the pregnancy. Allowing the stories to breathe was the only way I managed. All of it…pregnancy…parenting…It isn’t a shame, and that’s the point. I’m still learning. I’m still private. Stigma is very real. Maybe one day I’ll be braver than I am, but for now my hope is someone reads these words and feels home within themselves. Even if I never know for sure, the possibility is worth the risk of possible backlash.

The past month there is an element of vacillating between stuck and drowning in endless stuff. I don’t like Little Man watching television, but he has been all summer…for various reasons. Two hours in the evening; one evening I’m listening to him giggling and talking to a hideously stupid cartoon that makes my skin crawl with its banality and sheer idiocy. It’s the price of accessing my outlets that hold their feeble wall against barreled waves colliding into me for months now. When one tidal recedes, something new and different hits, and I’m in the process or ruminations once again trying to understand events and process…things.

Some I won’t discuss in this forum, but the general struggle is ongoing. I’ve become better at managing specific predictable, consistent issues. This round I’ve been more proactive with what I can anticipate, and in many ways I’ve been successful alleviating emotional burden. There are many good things I do outside of childcare, but it’s almost always squirreled in stolen minutes. This summer I committed to a weekly activity away from home that I knew would breathe life into me in ways I forgot I missed. In many respects I’ve had to forget my pre-children identity as a coping mechanism to manage the unavoidable grief of how I’ve always understood myself to be.

When my son was first born it felt very much in a holding pattern. Professionally, even as a manager, I’d be lucky to break even with exceptionally awing childcare expenses…It’s fairly recently I’ve been able to accept that morsel. Perhaps because it seemed unsurmountable at the time that I wasn’t able to acknowledge the very real fact that me working doesn’t make sense at this parenting juncture. With such an issue are the challenges of resume gaps, personal stagnation, parenting penalties…It was an ongoing and reasonable fear of mine for a very long time. Strange to think at this point that I’ve mostly overcome the most glaring obstacles. I wish I were paid, but it’s a vanity. I am able to embrace more skills and fulfilling occupations than a token paycheck in itself would provide. It hasn’t escaped me that my personal success in self-preservation is in large part a benefit of privilege. Consequently, part of how I choose to spread my personal wings often focuses on combatting systemic barriers others face. Such things aren’t particularly new for me, but with such limited time I’ve become more focused in my efforts…weighing the things I believe have greater impact with the scant free moments I muster.

I have many personal/professional efforts occurring simultaneously aside from my writing pursuits. But, my actions are almost entirely keystrokes and electronic exchanges. Summers can be especially grueling for me, so at the beginning of bathing suit season I committed a specific prioritized effort to volunteer away from my computer. Summer is the rare consistent time I have a child care option because my parents visit for a good stretch. It isn’t a perfect situation. The setbacks become a struggle of adjusting and organizing additional routine involvements, as well as the effect such disruptions and perpetual excitement have on my children’s functioning. I’m oversimplifying the issue, but the specifics don’t really matter in the context of this blog. All of this isn’t a complaint, per se…although it sounds so. It’s a complication that is lunacy to ignore…I’ve tried, and the effect has a significantly more negative impact on all parties. In every arena I encountered, fairing better during challenging times has more to do with preparation and strategy than dismissal and denial. It’s funny how that works…

To circle back to this summer, among other things I’m skilled at writing curricula…developing programs. The programs I create or embellish for the Department of Corrections have earned me the seeds of a reputation that might help me further on if I nurture it. One such program is a creative writing workshop. It’s three units spanning nine sessions that primarily focus on literary devices as a tool for expanding personal expression for individuals, among other issues, lack background knowledge most society takes for granted, as well as a specific deficit of risk taking in a classroom setting. In order to have this program approved without a formal agency endorsement, I used my reputation as an in for a couple of administrators; one responded to my email in a timely manner…the one I expected, actually. I’ve been teaching my creative writing class at our maximum security prison since the onset of the summer. It’s a spectacular experience in a humbling way.

I have substantial experience working with at-risk and incarcerated adolescents, so I see the progression stepping into a virtually empty, sterile room with glass walls. There are dichotomies occurring in this experience; it’s overwhelming at times. I have no illusions as to what behaviors lead to my students’ incarcerations. I can see the intimidation etched in practiced perfection the first moment they sat before me. It’s a dazed glare, a drilled unreadable scowl; it’s truly terrifying. I’d forgotten that first moment from when I taught reading in one of our medium facilities almost ten years ago.

But, there is something truly remarkable witnessing the wave of interest in the class content shift. One by one surprising things poke, and hardened stares of aggression soften into a childlike vulnerability and innocence. It becomes the new landscape for the class, and I almost forget where I am…almost. Honestly, it’s tragic and I can’t help but consider all those missed opportunities because a maximum facility prison was not the first step, rather just another in a series of rocky freefalls where no one and everyone are to blame. I knew to expect this. I needed this experience, and I’m glad after many failures to reenter this path, I could feel the complexity of this…situation again.

As objectively successful this class has been, I feel insecure about my performance…always hoping to be better…It’s my shtick…or one of them. As much as vague displeasure or fault I find with this piece or another, taking up this teaching opportunity has grounded me in expected ways. I’m thankful for my one morning a week, and will miss this during my fall and winter hiatus.

That said, as much as I return to my children renewed in some ways, it’s challenging to return home. Little Man and Warrior Queen are mostly fine these days spending the time with Nana and Papa, but they aren’t particularly settled when I return. I frequently mention that I’m an exceptional disciplinarian…for better or worse; consequently, my children behave best when it’s only our roving threesome. There is a marked difference when I’m not around, so returning to the subtle…and sometimes not so subtle changes…is unpleasant for me to witness. Returning from the prison isn’t such an issue, as I’m not absent for too much of a span, but even with my brief space vacancy my children often cling to me as soon as I enter from the garage…requiring some part of their body to grab hold of me. Such things I find disturbing, and I wonder if I’ve done something wrong for my brief absence to have such an impact. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good, hard snugglefest as the next Mommy. Some day the experience will be a phantom in my life, and I will ache in profound ways. But, I perceive this behavior as a response to excessive displeasure that I’m away. That’s a challenge to endure, but not enough to miss my class…I recognize it’s not a novel challenge for parents, but novel to me.

I’m planning ahead. I require various classes for license renewal, and this summer was an opportune time to fulfill all of my social work continuing education for this cycle. It’s only three full days dispersed throughout the summer, but they’ve inexplicably been the most challenging for me, as so many routines are out of my hands. When I return home in time to prepare dinner, I step into the fall-out of askew naps and simply a different day for my children. There is nothing inherently horrible or wrong about such things. It’s good for my kids, but I feel endless guilt that my children are likely misbehaving under my parents’ care…as happens when routines and caregivers shift. Usually within a couple hours away from my typical childcare hustle and bustle, I feel my skin crawl and my mind begin to wander. Guilt begins its press, and I start planning my exit. It all has to be neurotic. I’m vaguely aware it’s typical speaking to my Mommy friends first returning to the work force.

Just as Little Man is sensitive to routine shifts, so am I. It took returning to a normal day to remember that I haven’t had “normal” for several weeks. Emotionally I’m not at my best at the moment. I’m in a constant state of worry overload; I should have stopped trying organize everyone else…appease everyone else with an agreeable schedule. I likely would have saved myself some of the grief in the past couple weeks and enjoyed some of my rare adult time if I prioritized the need to experience what has become a bland, yet fine tuned typical day for our threesome.

Several things had seeped into my consciousness draining my reserves, but the confirmation of the foreboding I felt for weeks…that a good friend was significantly hurt should have pushed me to simplify…not expand…everything. Two brain bleeds hindering his ability to communicate, but I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’ve certainly had vivid dreams of his condition…waking to a jaw clenched for the duration of the night. I wish he was my only friend fallen on a hard stretch; he’s just the latest one. I haven’t adjusted to the feel of his situation yet…found a groove to support him and care for myself simultaneously. And, just when I find my balance, something wonderful happens that this one friend would particularly delight hearing, but I can’t share the news; I grieve it in unreachable places. The success laced with a slight bitter edge making celebration a challenge to fully embrace.

I’d dreaded a day with no formal plans…loose ends…too many things requiring attention, even if I had help with some of it. Abruptly I was forced into a forgotten typical day, and even though I woke exhausted and uneasy, afternoon I blossomed into a surprisingly invigorated state…or as refreshed as possible with so much weight…so much to consider and to push through. But, it was a better day…my children felt it too.

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(Amy Whitehouse Paintings knows no calm is ever perfect.)

I don’t like droning about hardships; this was a difficult post to write. I questioned publishing it. But, the lesson I take from this challenging time that certainly won’t be the last: simplify. I get lost with pleasing others…worrying for and feeling helpless about others until it consumes me; that likely won’t stop. It’s who I am, and I’ve developed strategies. But, sometimes I forget key interventions like my time with my children in its most basic and lackluster form. I think I forget from fear. I’m bombarded with the peanut gallery celebrating having help for the summer that I internalize the importance of help. But, forced to return to my way I’m reminded of precisely how powerful I am when I remember the basic things I need to feel like myself.

I don’t know if or when my friend who was a key, like minded voice in my life will be able to really talk to me again. There is a whole bunch more I can’t predict or control. I don’t know if my prison class attendance will drop-off even more, and I’m forced to cancel the remaining scant classes, having to wait almost an entire year to experience this specific avenue of my work again…for another chance to improve. My children are surrounded by so much love that they don’t know what to do with it at times; obviously that’s a good thing…even when it isn’t a good thing. We all reset when I provide the opportunity to do so, and I need to remember that very thing when I’m spinning off my axis. Because at the tail end of a typical day, I wasn’t spinning. I ate a wonderful cookie following an actual lunch not scarfed in between obligations. I consumed the iced caffeine I love so much, but more than the wakeful perk I enjoyed the drink for itself…sipped and savored over the course of a couple of hours. And, the next wave will inevitably rush forward attempting to sweep me off my balance. I’m sure I will let it, but there are always solid fixtures to grab. I only need to remember to open my eyes.

But, the Mosquito’s Dead

I often describe touching moments with my children…surprising events…cute, funny things I want to remember always once they are too old to touch me in these young ways.

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(Pinterest clearly understands gloating my precious family moments.)

Today, however, was not such a day, and I’m torn between wanting to deny this day’s very existence, or write about it hoping I won’t continue to be ripped once I’m finally able to sink into the oblivion I’ve been chasing for hours.

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(Why yes, Ranker, you captured the day’s family portrait perfectly!)

It’s a challenging time of year. My parents are here for the summer, making Little Man a perpetual buzz of excitement, and Warrior Queen intermittently disgruntled because someone else will be holding her, yet I have not compensated for the Mommy time deficit. Days that are only the three of us usually leave me craving some type of documentation that I seldom have time to produce these days.

The immediate morning was an omen, and frankly I knew I was in trouble when feeling an unwavering impulse to give Mr. Man to a circus if I thought they’d want him.

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(If everyone in Wikipedia’s picture was prancing around in a diaper, this would be our family room.)

I assumed the stars would align because I completed five minutes past my general morning exercise goal…It was a horrifyingly sad tease, and I’m still kind of bitter about it.

I figured if we managed to shuttle out to the library music program we regularly attend, things would be fine…per my usual experience with a hyper, silly preschooler. Warrior Queen was disgruntled from the get-go because, of course, she was. I’ve been giving her unending carrots and crackers because they are the only things that have made her disposition tolerable for days now. She might be teething…she might have to take a dump…or she might just be fucking with me in a twisted competition with her brother on who can behave like the biggest douche face in a single day…It’s a toss up, and I seriously considered efforts to convince both children that it’s time to go to sleep for the night…at ten in the morning.

My parents met us for the program. I receive copious comments on the wondrous nature of having help for the summer. I enjoy seeing my parents, but days like today as a prime example of the annoying difficulty containing the boisterosity I encounter leave feelings of nostalgia for when I go at things alone. Threenager was throwing hard, solid plastic egg shakers in the air…because nothing bad can happen with that decision.

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(Pinterest knew our attendance was a hit at the program.)

Fifteen-month-old Warrior Queen decides this is the one time she isn’t interested in a tether to my lap. She was on the perpetual move by any means necessary to achieve escape.

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(Dreamstime.com saw Warrior Queen’s reaction to any attempt at corralling the impulse of adventure.)

Thirty seconds transpired when both children nuzzled me in the most wonderfully snuggle infused touching way…It wasn’t enough. It’s almost time to go to sleep, and I still feel I need to beat my head against a wall to make the pain of this day evaporate into a good night’s sleep.

I invited a couple of friends over after the music program. One friend is a regular, so we both knew Little Man would likely make both boys cry throughout the visit…I still can’t believe they step into our home willingly. But, my other friend was new to the experience, and Mr. Man did not disappoint. There were moments seeing both boys play, her son with giddy smiles…until my husband’s demon spawn caused the little boy to clunk his head on our wood floor in some wincing way. The other two boys remained on their Mommy’s lap the entire span of the Thunderdome experience…their crying was minimal; a blessed paltry miracle perhaps?

Despite three removals upstairs for a good chunk of time, my son absolutely could not contain his excitement at having visitors.

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(“I. said. MOVE!”)

The most maddening aspect of what occurred today is that my son is mostly well behaved, sweet, and so considerate when we are out, at other people’s houses, whatever. When people come over, this type of thing happens every time. He simply cannot manage. It isn’t just the issue with sharing, which is also a problem. Little Man is entirely too rough. He thinks he’s playing, but the other children are usually overwhelmed. Unfortunately, most of the time I host at my house. My friends indicate their boys of similar age to Little Man have almost identical navigations with friends in their own domain. I continue to apologize well after awkwardness should set in…thank goodness for text. My first-timer friend texted me when she arrived home; her son said he had a great time. I commented that I think he hurt his head more than she thought.

My son continued to vibrate in jumping, clumsy giggles until I almost sprouted exploding snakes from my head, sending him to quiet time thirty minutes early.

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(Okay, Pinterest, your accuracy is getting a tad unsettling…)

He passed-out immediately…so did Warrior Queen who had mostly been fine with such a full house…probably because I’m phasing out her bottle. The only time she can partake is at noon until she goes down for the afternoon nap. Realizing today that it seems I’ve reached the threshold of her mostly losing interest in her bottle. Most the day I urge a sippy cup. Today she was actually receptive to the cup and dawdled with the bottle, not drinking from the bottle and continually dropping it. The only reason I maintain this narrow window is that she had been consuming sixteen ounces of milk in two hours. As of today that consumption sharply diminished. It seems that after this week there will be no more bottles for Warrior Queen. I’m relieved and a little sad about this transition for absolutely stupid reasons. But, I digress…

Kids asleep; the house was mine…MINE!

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(A situation so special I’d shave for it…possibly even above the knee!)

I finished my well earned remainder of my exercise routine while reading my smut. Improving sleep and concentration, I had been returning to my more high brow classical and impressive nonfiction selections, but not today, my friends. Today I’m lucky if my thoughts are coherent enough to use a more extensive vocabulary than “fuckity fuckface.”

Occasionally my son and daughter sleep three hours. It happens regularly enough that it isn’t a pipe dream…unless I’m having a craptastic day. In such cases I should rejoice they make it the reliable two hours without some random insect removal or lawn company ringing the doorbell, subsequently disturbing two pristinely napping children. I bitterly celebrated when Mr. Man lasted exactly two hours…Warrior Queen an additional fifteen minutes…because she actually loves her mother.

Mr. Man continued to behave like I dusted all of his food in PCP until well into the evening. Naturally this would be the very rare evening my husband needed to work late.

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I’m fairly certain my children had dinner. I’m also fairly certain that I did not…unless you count the glass I’d been chewing every time I attempted to take a sip of water. The entirety of the evening spent with my son head-butting, kicking, and tackling his sister; jamming his fingers in my face (I’m not entirely sure where his fingers have even been, but I’m trying to push that query aside.), and dismantling our sectional sofa by dislodging every conceivable pillow into a random pillow henge around our family room.

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(History.com knows what it looks like when you stop caring.)

Such an array of padding came in handy when he continually launched himself into impressive swan sprawls into the air.

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(You guessed it, Pinterest…I feel like I have my own Mommy-House photographer documenting my entire day…)

His sister delighted jumping on the sofa springs, which was fine by me because she’d been unpleasant unless she was on my lap ingesting a cracker…There had better be an arrival of a new tooth come morning…

I somehow managed to bathe both children. It goes without saying the bathroom flooded, but not as terribly as it could have been. I’ll go ahead and call that a win. My husband eventually making the grandest entrance any spouse could possibly conceive, which consisted of him just showing up.

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(Something like that, thanks, 98.5.)

Soon after my husband’s arrival home I shepherded Warrior Queen to her shut-eye. She was ready for the day to conclude as well.

I finally managed to eat dinner entirely too late, and hanger, my friends, is real; I’m becoming frightfully familiar with the such a state of being these days. While the omelet wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as my random and absurd perfectionistic compulsion prefers, it was mighty tasty and contained cheese. But, the highlight of the day, hands down, was that damn mosquito I crushed with one artful hand clap before I was bitten. So, with my bloodlust quenched in a surprisingly gratifying way, I reflected on a day that, all things considered, wasn’t too bad.

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